Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
06-07: Accommodating Legal Pluralism at National Level
Wednesday, 21/Mar/2018:
10:30am - 12:00pm

Session Chair: Raelene Webb, National Native Title Tribunal, Australia
Location: MC 7-100


Decolonizing Land law in Western African Countries and Recognizing Legitimate Land Tenure Rights

Caroline Plançon1,2

1World Bank, United States of America; 2French Technical Committee on Land Tenure and Development

The main objective of the presentation is to think of how it could be possible to recognizing and securing land tenure rights in Africa for a majority of stakeholders, in a short, in an affordable way for beneficiaries. The presentation will present and explain some key legal principles based on recent land policy and reform processes in Western African countries. These principles could have consequences in both rural and urban areas and also peri urban areas. The presentation will not be only a theoretical exercise but will also provide examples and questions raised currently in recent land reform implementation, in particular in Benin and Mali. But Niger, Senegal and Burkina will be heuristic examples as well to clarify some of these key legal principles. Lastly, the presentation will present some challenges and risks to implement and make effective and implementable these well-known legal mechanisms but quite innovative in African countries.


Legal Pluralism: A Terrain of Contestation for Rights-Based Land Governance in Myanmar

Diana Suhardiman1, Miles Kenney-Lazar2, Ruth Meinzen-Dick3

1International Water Management Institute, Lao People's Democratic Republic; 2Kyoto University, Japan; 3International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC

Dominant state control over land plays a critical role in producing land dispossession throughout the Global South. In Myanmar, state’s approach towards territorial expansion drives the country’s system of land governance, resulting in widespread and systemic land grabbing. This article investigates ongoing reform processes and brings to light key structural challenges in the country’s land governance system: 1) the government’s drive to formalise land ownership, which has threatened customary land tenure rights and legitimised land grabbing practices; 2) institutional inertia that impeded the current government’s reform efforts; and 3) the underlying problems of data inconsistency partly due to serial, historical land confiscation. From a policy perspective, we highlight the need to position legal pluralism as a terrain of contestation for rights-based approaches in land governance, meaning that pluralistic legal systems and norms are contradictory in their capacity to both limit but also generate opportunities for supporting local community’s land rights.


The Necessity to Consider the Complexities Inherent within Pluralistic Legal Systems When Introducing Domestic Property Law Reform – The Case of Sri Lanka

Anne C Pickering

University of Queensland, Australia

In countries where pluralistic legal systems and customary tenure exist, translating land policy reform to effective legal framework is not an easy task. Although this process is impacted largely by the prevailing local social, economic and political conditions, there are other contributory factors: the reluctance of the local community to accept change, the inability to change some deep-rooted customary practices and the inability to move past colonial influence. In some cases, it requires looking beyond these factors to find ways to harmonize the past with the present by exploring innovative solutions that accommodate customary tenure. Using Sri Lanka as a case study, this paper examines the necessity to consider the complexities within a legal pluralistic society of the interaction between formal law and customary law when introducing property law reform.


Endogenous land privatization in rural Uganda: What are the implications for customary land governance and customary land dispute resolution policies?

Matt Kandel

SOAS, University of London, United States of America

This paper considers the impact of endogenous land privatization on customary land governance and customary land dispute resolution policies in Africa. I analyze a magistrate court-directed mediation hearing for a customary land dispute, which I observed in October of 2015 in eastern Uganda. I explain how the dispute and mediation hearing illuminate the growing trend of rural land privatization across Africa. This paper also provides a comparative analysis of customary and statutory land dispute resolution practices. Political and economic change in eastern Uganda has caused a weakening in customary land governance; yet, my analysis of the mediation hearing shows how both customary and statutory land dispute resolution methods remain salient in practice. Evidence of their complementarity carries important implications for the development and/or reform of land dispute resolution policies. More broadly, this paper underscores the need for sustainable land reform in Africa, particularly in areas where customary tenure predominates.